Solar How To: Roof Gardening (Google / content4reprint)

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Solar How To: Roof Gardening

Energy is the latest buzzword to garner media attention. Fuel costs are rising, and finding an alternative and economical fuel source is vital to todays economy. Concern for the environment is also at the forefront of the energy issue. Solar energy is both an economical and eco-friendly alternative fuel source. One simple step in harnessing solar power is planting. Growing fruit trees or having a vegetable garden is a healthy and natural way to use solar power. Home-growing fruits and vegetables also cuts down on grocery bills. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which helps to clean the air of toxins. This idea can be taken a step further by planting a roof garden. Roof gardens can be planted on the tops of houses, garages or sheds.

Roof gardens help to insulate and retain heat in houses more efficiently than conventional thermal insulation. They also use natural precipitation for water, which reduces run-off and a homeowners sewer costs. Roof gardens also absorb ultra-violet light, which can strip a roof over time.

There are three different types of roof gardens:

o Extensive living roofs

o Semi-extensive living roofs

o Intensive living roofs

Extensive living roofs are the easiest to maintain and require the shallowest soil systems. They are also the lightest and are ideal for sheds or garages. The downside is that extensive living roofs lack the visual appeal of the other two types of roof gardens.

Semi-extensive living roofs are more aesthetically pleasing than the extensive living roof. They require a denser soil and can support different types of vegetation. They are heavier and are more suited to flat domestic buildings.

The third type of roof garden is the intensive living roof. This type of garden requires a strong structure to support it, such as the roof of a commercial building. The soil is denser and can sustain trees and full working gardens.

Roof gardens can be planted on flat or slanted surfaces. When choosing to plant a roof garden on a slanted surface like a shed, be sure to check for adequate structural support. The best types of plants for roof gardens on slanted surfaces are mosses and lichens.

The first step in planting a roof garden is to layer a moisture-retaining protective mat over the area. A root barrier and drainage layer must also be added. The root barrier protects the waterproofing of the rooftop. The drainage layer allows for collection and proper evaporation of water run-off. A filter layer is added to protect the drainage layer from fine particles being washed out of the soil. The vegetation layer contains a zinc-mineral based soil that helps the plants adapt. There are several different types of vegetation to choose from when building a roof garden.

The choice of plant life for a roof garden should be based on the type of garden and the climate. For extensive living roofs, the lightest vegetation is mosses and lichens. These are small plants that do not flower. They can survive in various different climates and are a hearty option. Sedums are the most widely used variety of plant as they are drought resistant. They also change color based on climate change. Wildflower and Calcareous Grassland plants can also be used for living roofs. These types of vegetation need ample space and would not be a viable option for a shed or small garage.

Roof gardens are a natural way to harness solar energy and insulate buildings. They can add style and beauty to a home while also saving a homeowner on heating and cooling bills. Investing in a roof garden or small home garden is an excellent way to save on natural resources and energy costs.

About the Author

Author: Burtonimus |

Video instructions for your next solar project. Solar, How. information is free and available to you.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.